Huawei Technologies Co’s (華為) revenue surged 9 percent this year, capping a dramatic year for the Chinese technology powerhouse, which challenged Apple Inc and US sanctions with an apparent breakthrough in chip technology.
Sales jumped to more than 700 billion yuan (US$98.7 billion), their fastest pace of growth in years thanks to a resurgent smartphone business and robust 5G equipment sales. On a quarterly basis, revenue climbed 27 percent to at least 243.4 billion yuan, based on Bloomberg’s calculations off the annual figure, which is a sharp acceleration from the third quarter’s slight rise.
Huawei made a splash this year after releasing a smartphone with a sophisticated made-in-China 7-nanometer Kirin processor, celebrated across China over US restrictions intended to hobble the country’s tech industry. The revelation ignited debate in Washington over whether those curbs had failed and what more needed to be done.
Huawei, written off as a top smartphone player after the US cut it off from overseas suppliers in 2019, is mounting a comeback. The Shenzhen-based conglomerate has emerged as a symbol of China’s resolve to thwart its geopolitical rival’s curbs, but Huawei itself warned of the dangers Washington and a volatile global economy might pose next year.
“After years of hard work, we’ve managed to weather the storm. And now we’re pretty much back on track,” Ken Hu (胡厚崑), one of several executives who rotate into the chairperson’s role, said in a traditional end-of-year message to staff. “We have to be aware that changes in the business environment are not caused by geopolitical conflict alone, but also by fluctuating global economic cycles.”
Huawei has enjoyed strong support domestically since its 2019 blacklisting. State-owned telecom carriers awarded Huawei lucrative deals in 5G and cloud computing, and other institutions bought nonperforming businesses from the company.
The Mate 60 Pro — the gadget housing the 7-nanometer Kirin 9000S chip — has taken market share away from Apple’s iPhone 15 since its August launch. Huawei has morphed into a major player in semiconductors, the very sector the administration of US President Joe Biden is focused on curtailing.
Huawei, a leader in networking equipment and smartphones, is establishing a network of chip plants and receiving an estimated US$30 billion from the Chinese government and its own hometown of Shenzhen, the US Semiconductor Industry Association said.
Going into the new year, Huawei might have to contend with not just a persistent US campaign to contain China, but also pressure to keep up its technological advances.
That last might become more difficult as already-scarce critical components for chipmaking, such as equipment, become further strained.
US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo has said the US will take the “strongest possible” action to protect its national security when asked how she would respond to Huawei’s breakthrough.
To ensure its technological lead, Huawei aims to expand investment in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence.
“We need to proactively embrace this window of opportunity and invest our limited resources in the most critical strategic domains,” Hu wrote. “Our overall strategic direction is clear. We will continue to streamline HQ, simplify management, and ensure consistent policy, while making adjustments where needed.”
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